Microkhan by Brendan I. Koerner

The Steamboat Willie of Malaysia

February 21st, 2011 · No Comments


All this solo parenting has reacquainted me with the role that animation plays in kids’ development. In those moments that I’ve plopped Microkhan Jr. down in front of Team Umizoomi in order to secure a few minutes of peace, I’ve usually spent some time reminiscing about the cartoons that shaped my worldview. As previously noted, the third installement of Robotech was a huge influence—an early introduction to narratives that center on a physical journey. But I also was swayed by much lower-brow fare, particularly such Saturday morning trifles as Dungeons & Dragons and (regrettably) Kidd Video.

Curious khan that I am, thinking back on those formative shows has got me delving into the animation that shaped kids in other corners of the globe. That line of inquiry led me to the short above, which is widely recognized as the first animated film in Malaysia. Though completed in 1978, the cartoon didn’t enjoy wide release until six years later, due to some political unpleasantness:

In the ’80s, when Adib Adam took over as information minister, he was shown Malaysia’s first animated fiction film, Hikayat Sang Kancil, done by Anandam Xavier who started work on it in the 60s and completed it in 1978.

However, the film was banned from being screened. Hassan explains it was because in that year, there was the disgraced politician Harun Idris’ corruption case. In the film, an old man laments that when you are useful, people will make use of you, and when you are not, they will just discard you. Some people thought it was a direct reference to the case…

“Finally it was shown on Hari Raya 1984 and was an immediate hit,” says Hassan. “Till today, 26 years later, people still fondly remember it and I’m gratified that in my lecture sessions, people come up to me to say how much they had enjoyed it and had even memorised the dialogue.”

Worth watching, even if you don’t possess the language skills to understand the dialogue. Knowing that this simple fable ticked off the Malaysian powers-that-be makes it extra-enjoyable; I’m sure that no American politician ever felt threatened by an episode of Kidd Video.

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